“Grow Solar” Programs Deliver Solar to Gateway Region Homes

St. Louis Grow Solar Programs

By Peter Murphy,
Solar Program Director for Midwest Renewable Energy Association 

With many working from home since March, you may have noticed just how much electricity you use every day: a light left on, an always-running laptop, devices with their tangle of chargers. For Julie Downs of Waterloo Illinois, and Robert McMullen of University City, these devices will soon be powered in part by solar power.

Both of these solar installations are actually making it more affordable for others to do the same. That’s thanks to Grow Solar St. Louis and Grow Solar Metro East, partnering community-based programs offering free education about solar matched with a bulk purchase program. These programs bring residents and small business owners from the greater Gateway region together to lower the price of solar while increasing the deployment of clean energy.

The Downs’ and the McMullens’ new solar systems have already helped push the programs across the first goal line. “We have a series of participation benchmarks, and once we collectively surpass each of them, there’s an increased discount for everyone who participates,” said Glenda Abney, Director of EarthWays Center of the Missouri Botanical Garden. “The more people who join the program, the lower the price will be for everyone. In addition to the cost-saving benefits of installing renewable resources, solar can help reduce impact on the environment and improve an individual’s quality of life.”

“Through Grow Solar, I learned that my personal community, University City, was actively involved backing it,” said McMullen. “I liked the idea of a community being involved and that together we are lowering our carbon footprint and reducing global warming. Each homeowner’s impact might be small, but combined with other people it might make a big difference.”

“I don’t have any children myself, but there are children in my life that need to inherit a healthy world,” said Downs. “Solar is one of those options that can contribute to that objective and make me feel I am doing my part.”

Grow Solar Metro East began in 2016 in Godfrey with the help of local organizations and a partnership between Lewis and Clark Community College and the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) and since then has resulted in over 175 local solar installations. In 2019, the EarthWays Center of the Missouri Botanical Garden partnered with Washington University in St. Louis and MREA to pilot a similar program in St. Louis City and County. 

Last year, 137 properties in the Gateway region were solarized through these programs. These solar arrays are calculated to reduce CO2 emissions by 2.3 million lbs. or avoid 1.1 million lbs. of coal consumption in their first year alone. This is equivalent to the annual carbon sequestration of 1,240 acres of U.S. forests (Source: EPA Greenhouse Gas Emissions Equivalencies Calculator).

The 2020 Grow Solar St. Louis program has expanded its geographical area to include the entirety of the City of St. Louis, St. Louis County and St. Charles County. Eligibility for Grow Solar Metro East includes Calhoun County in addition to Madison County, St. Clair County, and Monroe County. 

Through a competitive selection process, an advisory committee chose St. Louis-based StraightUp Solar as the program’s solar installer. They offer high quality solar installations, certifications for solar work, emphasize education and customer service. StraightUp Solar also has an excellent history in working in solar group buy programs and is familiar with the region.

The Grow Solar programs enable residents to save resources and improve local energy security, conserve energy, and reduce long-term energy costs. Schedules of upcoming educational webinars and a sign up form for each program can be found at GrowSolarSTL.org and GrowSolarMetroEast.org.